Over the next couple of months we will be running a series every forthnight on ‘Great Presenters’. What makes a great presenter? How can you become a great presenter? These questions and more will be answered every week by a new person. The series will offer a broad perspective on presentations from people who either do presentations for a living, have been trained in doing presentations or do presentations regularly at work.
This week’s blog post features Sam Swinstead. Sam runs Challenge Manager and is an expert on all things HR and learning and development. If you have any questions about HR and working with people in your company she is the person to ask. Sam runs outsourced HR for companies as well as running a multitude of different training programs. Check out her website and get in touch!
Sam Swinstead– On Great Presenters
Company: Challenge Manager
Tel: +44 (0) 845 463 9365
LinkedIn: Sam Swinstead
Where you born a great speaker or did you learn?
I am a natural born show-off which I think probably helps! I think I was born with some of the qualities that have made it easier for me to enjoy presenting. I am confident with people and enjoy being heard; I like to make myself knowledgeable about a subject and I enjoy sharing that knowledge with others.
I think I’ve then learnt the actual skills of presenting well through training and lots of practice. I still think there is much more I can learn about the science behind great presentations as I tend to operate from “gut feel”. There’s definitely heaps more I could learn about the great and best uses of powerpoint.
When did you first start to learn about presenting? What prompted you to start learning?
I started presenting short training courses in 1995 as part of my work running a rehabilitation programme for adults with long term mental illness. We needed to support their transition back to the workplace equipping them with job seeking skills; no budget to bring in “professional trainers” meant I needed to get good at delivering this myself. I found my passion!
What do you use your presenting and speaking skills for?
- Pitching for new work
- Delivering Training
- Leading two networking groups – 4Networking Business Breakfast Networking, and Challenge Yourself Network for L&D Professionals.
What are the benefits of learning to speak? What have you got out of being better at speaking?
- Success in the pitches we make for new work.
- Reputation as an interesting, relevant trainer delivering practical business focussed workshops that give a Return On Investment to a business.
- Succcess in the networking groups.
Has there been one stand out moment in your speaking career?
I am not so much a “speaker” as a trainer but there have been standout moments in training courses – good and bad!
I once asked three delegates to leave a course I was running in collaboration with a young female Chinese engineer (she was providing the technical components of the course). They were racially offensive and I wasn’t willing to tolerate their behaviour. I got a standing ovation from the rest of the class!
I worked with a group of newly qualified managers and one woman gave me some feedback that brought tears to my eyes. She was so nervous on the first day of the training that she had contemplated deliberately crashing her car on the way to the workshop to avoid attending. On Day 7 of the workshop series, she gave a confident ten minute presentation to her managers on how she planned to develop her team. Afterwards she thanked me for the training and how differently she felt about herself as a person and as a manager. She has ensured that I will always remember just how important it is to consider how my delegates feel when they attend training.
Have you always enjoyed presenting?
How did you overcome your nerves if you ever had any?
Concentrated on knowing that I was delivering a presentation people wanted to hear and that I had the skills to do what I was about to do. I find my nerves pretty much disappear within the first minute or two of speaking once I get warmed up. I find the most nerve wracking presentations are those when I am required to speak about myself rather than a subject matter I have researched. I find that if I can see people engaging with what I am saying, smiling, enjoying it or laughing then my nerves disappear pretty quickly – tip is to find a friendly audience face to give me that feedback quickly.